I don’t drive. I choose not to. I don’t like it and my anxiety makes driving incredibly stressful and not worth the effort. I don’t currently have a valid licence to drive. So I use public transport daily for journeys to work and activities with the kids and if I have to go anywhere, without the husband (who’m I agreed to marry when he promised to be my chauffeur. I may only be partly joking about this one 😉)
I use the buses local to us, in South West London. Most mornings and afternoons. They vary in their busy state and can be very crowded. The other day, on a busy bus, I was sitting, minding my own business, listening to my music on my headphones, not really aware of what was going on around me. I felt a tap on my shoulder and an older than me (let’s say I’m 40, she was maybe 60) was talking to me. I took my headphones out. “You need to give me your seat, so I can sit down” (no please I may add, let’s not go there on that one!) I looked around the bus (and of course everyone else is now pretending to be totally unaware of their fellow man) and then I said the following:”I’m sorry, I’ve had a fairly major knee operation, just a few months ago, and I can’t stand on the bus because if I fall over I will have a problem getting up and it could damage my healing knee, you’ll need to ask someone else”.
She looked at me and muttered something about “well you don’t look injured” but thankfully the man behind us decided to give her his seat so that was the end of that.
You see, I normally give up my seat for the elderly, for people unable to stand, for mums with little kids, and pregnant women, because that’s the polite and considerate thing to do. It’s what I was taught and what I teach my kids. Because I’m not limping much, and am not waving my crutches about anymore, you can’t tell that I’m only on recovery month 3 from surgery that involved knee realignment, bilateral release of tendons, cartilage removal, and insertion of a piece of titanium inside my knee.
Because I’ve worked damn hard at rehab and because I rested when I was supposed to, and frankly because I have an excellent surgeon and am amazing physiotherapist, my knee is healing beautifully. By standing on a bus, with little or no support, if that bus stops suddenly or someone bumps into me and pushes me, I could fall over. If I fall, I could really damage my healing knee. I’m not taking that risk for the foreseeable future. I happen to know how much three knee surgeries, 11 MRI scans, multiple ultrasounds, steroid injections, physio appointments, visits to A&E to have my dislocated knee popped back into place, pain medication and not one but two specialist knee braces have cost (because my doctor told me and also because I see all the insurance statements) and I’m not prepared to waste all that time, money and effort that has gone into fixing what was an utterly knackered and constantly painful knee by injuring it, if I can help it.
So, when you get on your bus, and you see it’s busy and you need a seat, I won’t be offering. I’ll gladly ask other people to help you, but until my knee is fully healed, it’s getting a seat, and whilst I may not look much like I need that seat, it comes down to not assuming someone doesn’t have something wrong with them just because you can’t see it or they aren’t wearing a badge telling the world.
Maybe I’m being selfish? I regard myself as a high user of public transport and I can say that regularly people who need seats don’t get them, and a lot of those people sitting on buses could give up a seat but don’t. However, as the point of this blog is that you don’t always know what a person needs, just by looking at them, briefly on public transport in passing, and I’m in that place.
That’s my seat and no, I won’t give it up. You can’t tell, but actually I need it!
Oh and don’t get me started about people who put their bags on seats… that’s a whole other blog post!